Sunday, August 21, 2005

Baby sleeps and Baby feeds *

Baby has this habit of being at her most fully awake between about 7pm and 1am, when nothing we do will get her drowsy. This is preceded by a few hours in which she is so sleepy that nothing we do will keep her eyes open for more than a second. And what it adds up to is less sleep for mummy and daddy.

I've been reading a couple of books about baby sleep, both lent to me by Make Tea Not War. The New Contented Little Baby Book, by Gina Ford, sounds really promising, especially to an inexperienced and unsure new mum like myself. Barker is really assuring and confident that her method of putting a baby into a routine right from birth, will result in a baby who will only get her mum out of bed once in the night. It was her assuredness that got me convinced to try her fascist-sounding feeding and sleeping regime.

However, Baby wouldn't fall asleep when she was supposed to, nor be wide awake on schedule.

So I had a look at the other book, Mark Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. He's pretty much at the other extreme in saying that you can't make a baby do anything other than what it's going to do anyway - at least for the first six months of it's life. I found his ideas reassuring too, because it meant I haven't been doing anything wrong and lets me off the hook if Baby is a sleep rebel.

So I was wondering, what do other people with young children think about the whole idea of putting very young babies into a routine? Has it worked for them, or did they just let their babies set their own pattern?

*Baby also does incredibly on-the-nose baby farts, but that's off the subject.


mlwhitt said...

Ha Ha, baby farts. That has to be too cute.

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Nigel Patel said...

I've been reading the intro to the Tao To Ching and these two books make me think about the Confucious/ Lao Tzu dichotomy.
I like the idea of 'rebel baby'.

EB said...

We think that a routine is a good idea except if it conflicts with demand feeding. We applied routine in an uncoordinated way. We began to see improvements from about eleven months.

We purchased the Weissbluth book at around 4-6 months; it is a helpful accurate guide for the sleeping habits.

Jon said...

I just give my kids a shot of Jack Daniels and they're out cold all night! ;)

Wicked said...

I don't really believe you can impose too rigid a routine on young young babies, but they still need to learn to differentiate between day and night time. Don't play with her at the nighttime feeds; just feed her, change her and put her back to bed without fuss. Do the opposite in the daytime; lots of coos and cuddles.
I think, at the end of the day, babies are all different and they set their own routine... I remember Michelle was a sleep-through-the-night babe at 11 weeks, whereas Hannah was still farting around at night til she was 6 months old.
Just make sure you get lots of rest til she settles down. :)

Make Tea Not War said...

Babies are all different and so are parents so I'll just say how the routine thing worked for us and you can see if there is anything in it you might find helpful and disregard the rest.

For the first six weeks things were pretty chaotic and I think this is true for everyone. I didn't find Gina Ford's routines possible. But what I did do was watch Z. very carefully for tired signs: ie. disengaging by looking off to the side, jerky clockwork motions, beginning to get agitated and irritable, and I put her straight to bed when I saw signs of it. I think in healthy sleep habits (and a few other places) it emphasizes not to keep the baby up too long at any time. I found if I got Z back to bed before she got too tired she settled down quite happily.

So I aimed as much as possible for a basic Eat, Activity, Sleep routine and to have her back in bed within two hours.

The exception was the early evening when she was generally unsettled and agitated and colicky so she just stayed up then until she settled down. She also had the odd unsettled day or morning every now and again.

One thing I noticed was that every single time I allowed lots of visitors to hold Z. and pass her around we ended up with a very unsettled baby for hours afterwards. Babies can't handle a huge amount of stimulation in the early weeks.

We also tried as much as possible to encourage recognition of the day- night distinction. Night time feeds are business like with no playing and and dim lights.

We really didn't go out much for the first few weeks because I wanted to keep gently steering Z towards a routine and avoiding stressed out, overstimulated baby.

The pay off was that she was actually a relatively calm contented baby most of the time and she slept through the night from 8 weeks on. At about 3 months I noticed she had pretty much naturally synchronised with Gina Ford's. routine. We never had to let her cry it out and she is usually very happy to go to bed at 6pm. She'll try and climb into her cot sometimes when she is tired.

So I guess my approach was to observe the baby very carefully and learn her tired signs and using those as a guide gently steer her towards a routine- accepting that it won't work every day especially not when she is having a growth spurt.

happyandblue2 said...

The routine I used worked exceedinly well. I just learned to sleep when they did and be up when they were up.
Adults are easier to train than babies..

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Violet said...

mlwhitt: baby farts sound cute but don't smell cute. Thanks for the link too.

nigel: the Tao of parenting?

eb:I did get the impression that you can't do much until the baby is at least 6 weeks old, if not older.

jon: hmmm...I think I'll just withdraw that offer of a nannying job...

wicked and mtnw: I'm trying to follow that, although some evenings she just wants to play and most afternoons she just wants to snooze. It sounds like I just have to wait and see how she develops.

happyandblue2: that's pretty much what I'm doing at the mnoment, but the boy isnt enjoying it 'cos he has to go to work each morning!

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Frally said...

It's hard to say, both my babies were completely different personalities. Whereas we were blessed with our first one, she started sleeping through the night immediately and we never relly had to try, my DS was a different story. He just would not sleep, EVER!

In the end, we completely backtracked on what we had done with DD and tried co-sleeping. I know it's not for everyone, but it was the only way my son would sleep, which in turn meant we got some sleep as well. Now that he's older, we've tuned his routine to be the same as his older sisters (seeing their not even 2 years apart in age) and he sleeps in his own bed, through the night without a problem. It's a myth that they'll never get out of their parents bed - that only happens if you let it happen, IYKWIM.

If you can handle it, just do whatever works for you NOW in the short term so you can remain well rested. You really need it! Routines can always change at a later date when your baby will be better adjusted to handle, even understand it.

Violet said...

Thanks for all the advice, people. I've started incorporating some play time after every feed time and trying to put her down to sleep after the second yawn. Cross fingers.